The McKendree University women’s basketball team closed the first half of its 2018-19 schedule Wednesday afternoon with a 69-64 non-conference home victory over Culver-Stockton College.
The Bearcats outscored the Wildcats 8-3 over the final 60 seconds of play to improve to 8-3 overall, which helps McKendree match its best 11-game start in the program’s NCAA Division II era.
Sophomore guard Callie Pohlman’s lay-up and subsequent free throw with 59.4 seconds remaining ignited the Bearcats’ game-ending burst. McKendree also hit its final five free throws in the last 30 seconds to pull away for the victory.
Sophomore guard Sydney Diekhoff led McKendree with 18 points, while junior guard Jordan Heberg finished with 13 points. Junior forward Megan Jensen collected her first double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Senior forward Jordan Morton chipped in with nine points and career-best 15 rebounds in the win for the Bearcats.
After trailing 34-33 at the half, McKendree turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, holding Culver-Stockton just 21.4 percent shooting in the period (3-of-14). The teams were tied heading into the final minute of the quarter when a lay-up from Morton followed by a free throw from Heberg sent the Bearcats into the final period with a 45-43 advantage.
McKendree pushed its lead to 49-43 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter when the Wildcats battled back. A lay-up from Patyon Curley at the 6:29 mark helped Culver-Stockton rally within 51-50. The game remained tight heading down the stretch when the Wildcats pulled even for the third time on the contest at 59-59 with 2:10 on the clock.
The teams traded scores before Pohlman provided the pivotal moment of the game. She took a pass at the top of the key, drove the lane and hit a lay-up with 59.4 seconds on the clock. Pohlman was fouled in the process, and her free throw pushed McKendree out to a 64-61 lead. After the Bearcats held Culver-Stockton scoreless on its next possession, Heberg was fouled and hit one of two free throws to extend the margin to four points with 30 seconds remaining.
Morton hit a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left to stretch the Bearcats’ lead to 66-61. Following a Culver-Stockton three-pointer, Heberg sealed the win for McKendree by sinking two foul shots with 8.4 seconds to play.
Curley led Culver-Stockton with 13 points, while Lacy Clark also reached double figures for the Wildcats with 10 points.
McKendree will have 11 days off before returning to play on Sunday, Dec. 30 with a contest at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. at the Vadalabene Center.